Trans-cultural courseware

Richard’s comment on yesterday’s post really brought home for me the issue of how prepared our educational system leaves us for being able to bridge C.P. Snow’s Art/Science cultural divide. It would be interesting to design courseware specifically with this in mind.

I don’t think the problem is as acute in music as it is in other fields. Thanks to the influence of Max Mathews and other pioneers, the same students who learn musical history, theory and practice are also able to learn the history, theory and practice of procedural music and its associated technological arc. In fact, NYU’s own Music Technology program is one of those wonderful places where the divide between the two cultures has been all but obliterated.

But for other disciplines, such as the visual arts, the wall of mutual ignorance seems to remain as high as ever. Perhaps courses focusing on specific topics could be specifically designed to combat this mutual ignorance. Of course if we did manage to design such a curriculum, the problem would remain of getting universities to accept such trans-disciplinary courses as legitimate academic offerings.

3 Responses to “Trans-cultural courseware”

  1. The growing prevalence of “digital humanities” and “digital social science” (often grounded in a growing appreciation of the power of so-called big data) may be equivalent boundary-crossing practices.

    These practices have existed for some time as research activities, but a colleague of mine is about to revamp the grad research methods course in Communication Studies to include hands-on experience with more computer-assisted research tools and data sets.

    To be fair, there are a number of social scientists with deep appreciation of math – my former colleague Bill Richards, among them – and especially the subtleties of the mathematical nuances needed to effectively study (social) networks.

    This term, in an elective we offered in “digital art and installations,” students from our own grad program in digital media joined students from Interactive Arts and Technology and MFA students from Emily Carr University of Art + Design. The results were artistically and technically impressive, and students seemed to very much appreciate the opportunity for multi- and trans-disciplinary expression.

  2. sharon says:

    Something feels strange in the way you talk about getting “universities” to accept this—as if it isn’t ultimately a group of people deciding about curriculum. If the idea is valid why shouldn’t you be able to convince a university? Especially a private one? Quite possibly I’m being naive about this, having never tried to create a new course in a university, but it seems like it should be easier there than in, say, the public primary school system.

  3. admin says:

    Sharon: It’s not a problem of introducing a new course in the University — that is relatively easy. It’s a problem of convincing an established academic discipline, such as computer science, that this sort of course would be relevant to its purpose.

    This matters because students are more likely to find room for courses that count toward their degree in a subject area.

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